One thing I find most frustrating about being relatively young and tracing family history is that I don’t hold much of the actual history in my own memory. Someday I will, I suppose. Now, however, I rely a lot on older relatives and old books that have bits and pieces of the puzzle. Unfortunately, I’m at the age where I’m missing some of those key story tellers. Why don’t we ever think to write things down when we have the chance? It’s always after we’ve lost someone that we think about how important those stories really are.
My daddy told stories … a lot of stories … about a lot of relatives. So many stories and I could barely keep all the characters straight! His grandmother, Verna Jones, AKA Marion Veronica Essler, is easy to remember. She was stubborn. Again, I get it honestly.
What I know about Verna Jones
Marian Veronica Essler was born on November 22, 1889 in Le Sueur County, Minnesota to Charles Daniel Essler (1848-1914) and Adaline Isabell (Belle) LeMaitre (1866-1951).
She married Charles Edgar Jones on February 12, 1910.
Together, they had three children:
- Mildred Isabelle (my grandmother, 1913-1977)
- Donald (1915-1988)
- Douglas (1917)
Verna is pregnant in the photo above, I think with Grandma Moore. I was a toddler when Grandma Moore died and I never met her brothers or any of their families. My dad didn’t talk of them much, either. He talked a lot about Verna, though! She died on February 13, 1975 and is buried next to her daughter, Mildred, in Harrisburg, Illinois.
We all know that family folklore can sometimes be just that. Verna herself was known to spin a tale or two. I’ve proved some right and others wrong. What I do know is that she met Charley Jones in South Dakota – Charley was stationed at Ft. Meade at the time – after her mother Isabelle’s second husband (Walter Seaver) moved the family there. I’m unsure if they moved because of military ties or homesteading, but they all moved there nonetheless. Family story tells Verna was employed as a school teacher in a one-room school house while living there (think Laura Ingalls Wilder style).
After they married, Verna and Charley moved back to Minnesota where their children were born. Then, sometime before 1930, the family moved to Cairo, Illinois … about an hour south of where I live. Charley was recruited, for lack of a better word, to help combat mob violence around here during those days. The family has remained in the area.
Charley died many years before my dad was born, but he used to tell me that Verna was stubborn and hot headed while Charley was more subdued and even-tempered. When they would argue, Charley would leave and take a walk around the block to let Verna cool down. He died in 1938. Daddy used to say he kept things too bottled up and that’s what killed him.
The Wedding Ring
Verna is close enough to my generation that I’ve been fortunate to inherit a few small items … namely her wedding ring. I have it locked up tight, but Daddy gave it to me right before I got married as my “something old”. It was nearly 100 years old at the time and still in near perfect condition. She and Charley were married in the Black Hills and he bought her a ring to commemorate the location. I have loved Black Hills Gold for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those things that makes you wonder just exactly how genetics and family traits really work!
Honestly, I’m amazed that her ring ever fit me, let alone as an adult. She was thin … but I guess large boned German women are just that, no matter how skinny (or not!) they are! I still wear it on very special occasions … it reminds me of where I came from and who I’m connected to more than any other family treasure I have. She may have been stubborn and hot tempered (that just makes me chuckle), but she loved her family and I think she even loved Charley a little bit … she kept all of his trinkets, too. I keep them locked up tight next to her wedding ring.